Thursday, October 25, 2012

Everyone has their reasons. Here are mine.

I'm a cyclist with a blog, so I suppose it's time for me to tackle the topic everyone's talking about...except I don't really want to.

Regarding the recent happenings within the sport, I think Zirbel expresses our shared sentiments quite well, and his experiences make his a more qualified viewpoint:

Instead, I want to explain my own situation and why I am--and will always be--competing clean.  It's a different situation for everyone, and it's much more complicated than simple morals. Everyone who has confessed recently said they knew it was wrong, but other factors pushed them towards making the wrong choice.

So here's where I stand.

I have options.

Many racers we're reading about now got themselves backed into a corner. The choice was to dope and succeed, or stay clean and have no way to pay the bills. Thankfully the mentality is shifting and racers can succeed clean now. They could be superstars by doping (if they managed not to get caught), but can at least be successful clean, making the choice easier.

As much as I love my job, it's not the end-all-be-all for me. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M (WHOOP!). I would be heartbroken to give up racing professionally, but if it came down to paying the bills, I'd be just fine without it.

I don't have friends to spare.

I have never had a great number of friends. Growing up I had a few very close friends, and by the end of high school we had all grown apart. College was a chance to reset. I became super-involved in the A&M cycling team and made many lasting, close friendships. We became friends while I was a cat. 4 on the road. They played a large part in my development as a racer, and have cheered me on as I climbed the ladder.

Aside from my Aggie friends, every other friend I have is somehow involved in cycling. Every. Single. One.

Doping would burn all these friendships, the ones that matter.

When I was a cat 2, I had a good rival. We were evenly matched in every race that year. One race in particular, we called the race a week in advance. "It's going to be just the two of us at the end, head to head." That's exactly what happened.

Later that year, I got on velonews and learned he had been tested out of competition and was popped for a long list of serious PEDs. I was so offended and hurt that I still have not spoken to him since.

I couldn't get away with it.

I've said it before: I'm my mama's boy. She's a worrier, and so am I. If I started taking PEDs, I would be a nervous wreck all the time. I'd give myself away immediately. The fact of the matter: I'm terrible at getting away with things.

I once TP'ed a house with my friends. Not 2 hours later, the cops were at the door.

In middle school, I was a tech-aide. We would help with the computers around the school, keeping everything running. I and the other aides had a key to the elevator, and one day decided to take the elevator just because we could. It broke down. We were stuck in there for close to an hour. Firefighters had to break the thing open with airbags.

Those are just two examples, although there aren't many more. I'm not fit for a life of crime.

I like a challenge.

I remember a quiz I cheated on in 5th grade. It was about naming the states. We had just been passed back our homework, and when I got stuck in the quiz I remembered that the homework was just sitting under my desk, out in the open. I got all the questions right as a result, but didn't feel very good about it.

I remember a quiz I cheated on when I was 10 years old. You think I could ever come to terms with cheating in the sport I love?

As years went by in school, I developed a sick pleasure in wrecking curves without cheating. Especially in math classes. Especially in Calculus. I didn't much feel the need to rat people out...I got more satisfaction out of beating them fair and square, and ruining the curve while I was at it.

In college, I wasn't wrecking curves anymore, but I began to take full responsibility for my grades. I knew that I was capable of making whatever grades I wanted if I was willing to put in the work. In almost every case, I chose bike races over studying. If I wasn't prepared for class, that was my own fault.

I had one class...I don't remember the name of it. It was MEEN 357, I know that much. Sounds tough, doesn't it? Well, the final exam was a take-home, open book, open notes project. The only stipulation was no working with other students. The project had something to do with writing a differential equation solver to animate a pendulum. The problem was that all the students went to the same lab to work...and a lot of the submissions ended up looking quite similar. I stuck it out, took longer, and wrote a more complicated and longer program than necessary, but I got it done by myself and took satisfaction in that.

When it comes to cycling, I want the satisfaction of knowing that my success is 100% legitimate, regardless of what my competitors are doing.

The #1 reason I will not use PEDs.

I've told this story before, but here's the gist of it: I'm a bike racer because my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.

He had never done anything to give cause for lung cancer, and yet he had it.

I wanted to race pro before the cancer, but it convinced our whole family not to pass up opportunities. You can't take anything for granted, so I jumped at the chance to make a living doing what I love. Doping would ruin that.

PEDs have legitimate uses in the medical world. My dad is on/has taken many of them. Because he needs them.

I can't even wrap my head around taking those drugs so I can pedal a bike faster. What a ridiculous reason to poison your body.